By Max Foley
CALGARY — Fresh off their busiest year to date, Mike Grimes and Pete Emes (Smalltown DJs) are starting off 2017 strong. With almost 20 years of collaboration under their belts, Emes’ optimism burbles through the phone palpably as he lays down the duo’s plans for this year.
“Before you called, I was just listening to this EP we worked on with Neon Steve. He sent us a track that we worked on, and then we sent him one and he returned the favour,” Emes starts. “That one’s got a few labels buzzing and should be out in a month or two.”
“We’ve also got a single coming out on Fool’s Gold at the end of March, and a bootleg we did with Skratch Bastid that we’re making a video for. That should be out in the next few weeks.”
Needless to say, the duo has a lot on their plate. Between fueling the ever-advancing legacy of the Hifi Club and turning over a drastically different leaf this year, Emes’ attitude concerning their past belies the values that put Smalltown DJs on the map in the first place, continuing to keep them there to this day.
“We’ve played at Fabric twice. We played with [Steve] Aoki and [DJ] AM in their heyday. Our two sets at Bass Coast this year were some of our favourite DJ memories ever,” he recounts. “But as soon as those moments are over, it’s fuel you use to move forward. It’s about what’s next.”
What is next for Smalltown DJs, then? It’s hard to believe anyone would fault them for retiring and resting on their laurels. Yet Emes describes a change of direction that some might see as backwards, considering their aforementioned accomplishments: a focus on really nailing their original productions.
“The longer we work on our production, the closer it comes to sounding the way we want it to for our DJ sets. It’s a little different than a producer learning how to DJ. And we’re not newcomers, but we still have something worthwhile to say, and to create.”
Delving deeper into the Smalltown DJs’ manifesto reveals a glimpse into what fueled this change in direction: what Emes describes as “good music, good times and as little pretension as possible.” Emes and Grimes have undertaken many a labor of love – this, then, is just the next logical step in their progression as artists.
However, don’t think for a second that 2017 will make hermits out of the duo. “We’re looking to make more DJ moments this year,” Emes proclaims. And with their annual Mountain Magic tour beginning to take shape, the return of Hifi special ‘My People,’ and a slew of new music in the works, the future seems bright. All in a day’s work for Calgary’s hometown heroes.
Catch Smalltown DJs at the Hifi Club on February 11th with Sacha Robotti and Sirus Hood, and alongside Worthy, also at the Hifi, on the 23rd.AB, Alberta, HIFI Club, Smalltown DJs